What They Say:
Aim for the Giant Shipyard! Monkey D. Luffy refuses to let anyone or anything stand in the way of his quest to become King of All Pirates. With a course charted for the treacherous waters of the Grand Line, this is one captain who’ll never drop anchor until he’s claimed the greatest treasure on earth: the legendary One Piece! Along for the ride are his loyal crewmates, a wonderfully-bizarre collection of outcasts and misfits from the far corners of the world. Each member has their own special talent, and they’ll utilize their skills to help Luffy achieve his dream! Together, the rubberman and his crew can conquer any challenge and defeat any foe!
Set up in both 5.1 English and 2.0 Japanese, One Piece continues to have a superb English audio in terms of needing to actually lower my standard settings so I could hear without ruining my ears. The Japanese track is also very good, where setting it to standard settings was almost as good as a standard 5.1 track. There were no issues with sound transition or any overlapping issues with missing audio or out of place dubbing or synching with the subtitles.
Set on a 16:9 – 1.78:1 ratio, visually, the extremely colourful and unique style of One Piece follows well on a widescreen format, no picture issues with distortion when pausing and no freezing or synching with the audio so a very quality release.
Each of the menus are the same but with a different character showcasing; whilst on Disc 1 we have an image of Luffy ready to stretch out a punch, the other menus are one of the CP9 characters in their masks, hiding the image of who they are, which is one of the selling points of this arc in discovering on who they are, which you only learn right at the end of the third disc so slightly spoilerish for the 4th disc but still good as the usual set up on a brown Wanted Poster like background remains. The selections are vertical on the right hand side. The choices are Play All, Episodes, Set Up and Extras. Each is easily accessible both from the main menu and from the show itself if you need to revert to the main menu with little time delay. Very basic otherwise as the menus are static so pretty much the same as all previous releases.
The One Piece collections as always come with some decent extras, mainly the dub commentaries with a couple of other things this time.
The commentaries are spacious – we start in episode 233, involving Mike McFarland (ADR Line Director/Producer), Brina Palencia (Chopper) and Phillip Weber (Iceberg) – with this being one of the biggest arcs for quite a while, they are all full of spoilers, so outside of that (and Brinas’ adoration for Chopper), the commentary is mostly around newcomer Phillip who is a new face to anime and this was his first major role coming from a radio background – I’ve been out of touch with a lot of the new voice actors so this was a good way to introduce me to them. We do get obviously a lot of discussion of the story, and how One Piece can switch from funny to dark quite easily, a trend you will find a lot of people nodding their heads on a lot this arc…
Commentary number two is on episode 26 which is on one of the big (and one of my favourite) episodes of the collection, along with Mike, we have Colleen Clinkerbeard (Luffy) and Sonny Strait (Usopp). These two characters are a huge focal point of the episode as these two actually have a fight. Sonny in particular showcases how much Usopp is growing at this point, both in actually thinking ahead to fight someone way out of his league, making comparisons to how Batman would face Superman – how emotionally draining it was for both of them, Sonny in particular considering how silly Usopp is mostly, using the flashbacks in the episode helping along as well. It is quite a huge episode and the commentary adds to that once you’ve seen it, as you get inside the voice actors heads in having to prepare for something completely different to what you are used to.
The next commentary is on episode 244, which has Mike and Brina return, but this time joined by Patrick Seitz (Franky) – a funny moment is that is mentioned is that once they got the licence for One Piece, Patrick played Franky for one of the video games they had back in 2007…and then it takes over 5 years to get a call-back for the character as he appears over 200 episodes later combined with a hiatus in the release! Talk about waiting patiently…this is mostly a general talk about Frankys’ character and Brina showcasing why this is her favourite arc of One Piece so far, along with mentioning the fandom and the gorgeous One Piece merchandise there is.
Lastly, we get a commentary on episode 245, with Mike, another newcomer David Wald (Paulie) and a young veteran in Luci Christian (Nami) – all of these commentaries mention that One Piece went on a hiatus for a few months – which was actually beneficial for Luci as she mentioned she actually had her first baby in that time (congrats Luci though this was released in the UK later after the US release so…) – this one is a lot more comic, though we again, get some information on the newcomer David, and especially that he is from a music background, mostly jazz. All in all, the commentaries are a return to One Piece, and what an arc to return to…
We also get the cleaning openings and endings to the series, and two small behind the scenes commentaries with Mike, one with Brina, and one with Eric Vale (Sanji). In both interviews, we get their thoughts on their characters, designs, development, all mixed with clips of the show. The casting process back in 2007, Brina having three call-backs, Eric originally auditioned for Zolo, their favourite moments, favourite villains and their other favourite Straw Hat. In both cases, the origin stories seem to have a good affect for the actors which makes sense as they are all pretty strong, which again, adds to how important these stories and backgrounds make it for this rather big arc….
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I consider One Piece, along with Naruto and Bleach, to be the big three of the current Shounen Jump series. Shows like Dragon Ball have long lasting appeal (and Kai is getting a UK release soon) but out of the three, One Piece seems to have the most going for it for me at least. The back stories are well told, the characters are fun yet also badass, even the filler seasons actually aren’t too bad. And it even does drama well – this has been proved with the Nami back-story and Sanji back-story, and now as we seem to slowly delve into Robins’ story, another character gives us the tearjerkers in one of my favourite arcs to date.
It actually starts off pretty fun – Water Seven is basically a One Piece version of Venice, some fun reactions when they get their berries for the gold they got (with Nami being particularly awesome to offset Usopp and Luffys’ dunce natures with money) – the big thing is we are introduced to the Galley La company, a group of shipwrights who are pretty badass. The first thing you will think is that with them needing a shipwright their next crew member is most likely going to come here. And there is the first hook which later turns into quite the plot twist…
We are also introduced to the Franky Family, who attack Zolo on the ship – who seem to be the big antagonists in this arc. Again, it is a very clever bait and switch, as we are introduced to one of the Galley La, Kaku, an incredible fast and agile man who is going to assess the Merry, Iceburg, the beloved mayor of Water Seven and Paulie, a rope swinging human who helps recover some money which Usopp loses (and then wants to comically keep some because of his debts). However, after all this fun, the first bullet of this arc hits when Kaku assesses the Merry CANNOT be fixed, no matter how much money they have. This shocked the crew as their beloved ship given to them as a gift way back when Usopp joined is added when Usopp is missing, trying to take on the Franky Family who stole his money where Franky himself, beats up Usopp, takes his money and then goes away. This leads to Luffy, Sanji, Zolo and Chopper in a particular badass moment, follow his trail and beat up the remaining family with ease, showcasing One Piece still has the action moments to offset everything else that will come to be this arc.
However, the joy is short lived as Luffy has the job of telling Usopp the Merry can’t be fixed and they are going to get a new ship – Usopp, having the closest feels to the ship due to its origins, is absolutely devastated and despises the decision, wants to leave the crew and challenges Luffy to a fight to try and get the Merry – which leads to a heartfelt episode of flashbacks of the two being friends, combined with this smart fight where Usopp – whilst having no chance against Luffy normally, uses several tricks, traps and attacks to actually do damage to him, but in the end, Luffy does win and a tearful Usopp is apparently left behind…leaving the viewer in my case also in tears. It is a big moment, as you question if Usopp actually is going to be left behind…
But it doesn’t end there. Turns out Iceburg has been shot and the Strawhats are suspected of the crime, whilst Franky returns after a shopping spree and finds his family decimated, seeks revenge. Leads to Luffy, Franky and the Galley La all clashing – and from Luffy rushing to find out what happened, he learns that it was apparently Robin who did the deed, causing even more shock for Luffy considering one of his friends has left, and another has been accused of attempted murder. It is here we are introduced to a new group which Robin has connection with called CP9, and she even is found by Sanji and Chopper where she says she has to leave the group. A double bombshell with 2 members apparently leaving the Straw Hats?
So now Luffy wants to catch Robin, Usopp desperately wants to repair the ship for the upcoming flood called Aqua Laguna, and the hidden story of an ancient weapon that Iceburg has the blueprints for, which now are in the hands of Paulie. Unfortunately CP9 reveal themselves, and the surprise on who they are and the trickery involved is huge as they were in fact members of the Galley La – all who had been introduced in various parts gradually, from Lucci, the guy who was a goofy ventriloquist, to Kaku, to Kallifa, the attractive secretary – are all very dangerous humans and fighters. And then the big truth about how Franky is involved…lets just say quite a few flashbacks and storytelling later I was reaching for my hanky again, as Franky turns from comic villain, to wondering how he is a cyborg, to finding out how he became one and you realise how everything in this arc is tied together – and the moments between Franky and Usopp when you learn that Franky was an incredible skilled shipwright named Cutty Flam and went into hiding thanks to Iceburg so could avoid the blueprints being revealed, it is really well tied together (combined with the idea of course that the Straw Hats need a shipwright and as Galley-La now is not an option)….
Lucci suddenly becomes the main enemy with a powerful Zoan Devil Fruit transforming him into a leopard, and takes out the Straw Hats available, but in turn Paulie is able to confirm they are innocent with a big cliff-hanger as Robin revealed to Iceburg that she was going to return with CP9 to basically get killed for the government, in return for letting the remaining Straw Hats go – Robin of all people is in tears knowing she actually cared for the Straw Hats, and you can tell by the cliff-hanger ending of her leaving on the Sea Train that this is going to be her big back-story arc, and makes you want the next collection so badly…
This arc has everything – it has the good elements of comedy at the beginning, Franky himself is quite the comic foil despite being quite a fighter himself, there are plenty of moments with him (especially with Usopp) where he lightens the mood. However, the show knows how to mix the comedy well but not overdo it to cheapen the action and drama scenes that this arc hits. From Usopps’ duel with Luffy (and Luffys’ reaction after it when Usopp appears to be leaving the group), to Frankys’ back-story, to Robins’ surprisingly emotional response to Iceburgs’ question why she is returning to the government knowing they will kill her (the head of CP9 himself doesn’t help as he is an unlikeable head who lets the others do his dirty work) – Chopper’s reactions throughout being the most innocent of the group really sells the idea this is real, and whilst most of the Straw Hats do take a backseat to everything going on, everyone gets their moments. Zolo fighting the initial Franky Family and also being defeated initially by the skills of CP9, Sanjis’ search for Robin, and apparently managing to sneak onto the Sea Train right at the end, Namis switch from stern yet comic money organiser at the very beginning of the set, to in tears and screams when she thinks that will never see Robin again after learning the truth, Chopper being part of the revenge of Usopp as we don’t see him as badass as the core three, and then revert to cute and innocent and totally in tears hearing about Usopp and Robin – and Luffy himself with the big duel with Usopp, his reactions and decisions he has to make are all with tears, in contrast to his usual goofy personal in various scenes, with his beat down by Lucci obviously setting up the battle with him most likely later in the arc. Yes, it is still a bit predictable but the set up for that has been excellent.
The bait and switch of the shipwrights was also really well done. I think most people saw Kaku and immediately thought he will join the crew, being Usopp like, comic yet with a lot of badass nature. Then he reveals he is part of CP9 and then you realise the story gradually made you realise it is Franky they are setting up to be the potential members of the Straw Hats. The back-story of Franky with his mentor Tom and his relationship with Iceburg, the fact Tom was the man who made Gold Rogers’ ship, but got out of being sentenced due to his promise of creating the Sea Train, and the tragedy of Spandam when Tom apparently had the blueprints that in present day he is still after, leading to why Franky became a cyborg – and now with him and Usopp captured, and Robin also returning to Spandam, this is really looking bleak, but the cliff-hanger, the story, it is setting up for a big return I am sure, and I cannot wait.
Lastly, I will mention the development of Usopp in this arc. Usopp up until now was probably my least favourite of the crew, though only more by default than anything. He suffers from being not a superhuman like Luffy, Zolo and Sanji, or the intellect of Nami/Robin, and the uniqueness of Chopper – he is a normal human who is able to manipulate quite well with some good sharp shooting, but is very underwhelming compared to the rest, saved mostly by his humour. Here, Usopp demonstrates true emotion with his attachment to the Merry, and later it is shown he always knew the Merry was able to ‘die’ so to speak, yet didn’t want to admit it out loud, hence his duel with Luffy. His moments with Franky later solidify this but his will to leave the group is a real heartfelt emotional moment, and you feel so badly for him despite all his efforts, his one main attachment to the crew is gone. You want him to be happy after all this, and the fact he is still a major part of the story with him being kidnapped means this is the start of a most likely mature growth with him, and again, we see how it goes but Usopp grew on me as a character this arc, with good storytelling combined with flashbacks and mixed well for this show, showcasing he is just as an important part of the show as any other of the Straw Hats.
Not since the Pain arc of Naruto Shippuden, learning of his back-story, and the battle with Naruto and Hinata’s near sacrifice have I enjoyed a Shounen Jump arc so much. One Piece has been the most consistently good of the big three, but this is my favourite arc so far, because it is setting up so much, plays with your emotions (in the back of your mind you know Usopp/Robin aren’t going to leave, but the story does well in that it does showcase a very strong possibility) whilst not forgetting what it is good at with the mix of comedy and action. With Usopp, Franky and Robin all getting development here, the set up is ready, and let’s hope it delivers.
Not a filler in sight, the show goes full story and delivers big time. The first time the Straw Hats have had a crisis where their crew is leaving, combined with back-story, new characters, new villains, some actual good twists – yet still delivers fun moments and good battles in between the drama and tearjerkers. Usopp, Franky and Robin are the stars but everyone gets their moment, with good storytelling, a cliff-hanger, tears shed, laughs had, bloody battles and all round emotions, One Piece continues to swim on its merry way to a hopefully epic climax. All round, one of, if not the best Shounen Jump arc I’ve watched to date.
Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A-
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: June 15th, 2015
Running Time: 575 minutes
Video Encoding: Region 2
Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.